Skip to main content

Full text of "The Cambridge Natural History"

See other formats


304

INVISIBILITY OF GIRAFFE

of Ruminants. The neck is often supposed to have some relation
to this method of feeding. But a more ingenious explanation of
its inordinate length is that it serves as a watch-tower. The
long grass of the districts inhabited by the animal swarms with
Lions and Leopards, which must be foes. The long neck allows
of a wide look out being kept, and it is noteworthy that the
Ostrich, living under similar conditions, is also renowned for its
length of neck. It is the spots upon the Giraffe which have
given it its name of Cameleopard ; these spots present in the
southern form a series of chocolate-coloured areas, sharply marked
off by white spaces. Of these spots it is asserted that they
serve as a means of concealing their possessor. Sir Samuel
Bakerl wrote of it in the following words: " The red-barked
mimosa, which is its favourite food, seldom grows higher
than 14 or 15 feet. Many woods are almost entirely composed
of these trees, upon the flat heads of which the giraffe can
feed when looking downwards. I have frequently been mis-
taken when remarking some particular dead tree-stem at a
distance that appeared like a decayed relic of the forest, until
upon nearer approach I have been struck by the peculiar inclina-
tion of the trunk; suddenly it has started into movement and
disappeared."
The Giraffe, remarked Pliny, " is as quiet as a sheep.'* The
Roman public, to whom the first Giraffe ever brought into Europe
was exhibited, expected from its name " to find in it a combina-
tion of the size of the camel and the ferocity of a panther." As
a matter of fact, Giraffes in captivity are not always sheep-like in
temper. They will kick with viciousness and vigour, and will
even initiate an attack upon their keeper. At the same time
they are singularly nervous creatures, and have been known to
die from, a shock. In moving, the Giraffe uses the fore- and hind-
limb of each side simultaneously; this gives to its gait a peculiar
rocking motion, the singularity of which is heightened by the
curving movements of the long neck, which even describes now
and then a, figure of eight in the air. Qiraffa, camelopardalis
and the species (?) already referred to are the only existing
Giraffes (of the gemis Girajfa), and they are not found out of
Africa. Sir Harry Johnston has lately given a brief account
of a larger and more brilliantly coloured species from Uganda
1  Wild JBtettsta cmd their Ways, 1890, p. 151.